Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) -
San Diego Padres right-hander Andrew Cashner has a 99 mph fastball. He also has the only complete game in Major League Baseball this season.
Your move, rest of the league.
Seriously though, how did it get to be like this? Complete games used to practically grow on trees. Now they seem as rare as David Ortiz stolen bases.
For the answer, you can ask Matt Moore. Or Patrick Corbin. Or any of the other nine big league pitchers who have undergone Tommy John surgery in the last month and a half.
Some players, Kris Medlen for example, have already had two Tommy John surgeries in their careers. Medlen is only 28.
The injury epidemic is real. To combat the recent wave of elbow and shoulder ailments, many of the season-ending variety, teams are managing their teams a bit differently. And it all starts with pitch count.
Max Scherzer won the AL Cy Young award in 2013. He didn't reach 110 pitches until his fifth start last season. Clayton Kershaw, the NL recipient of that award, didn't even get to 100 pitches until start No. 3.
When all was said and done, Kershaw averaged 103.88 pitches per game over 33 starts. That's not bad but it's nowhere near Randy Johnson's 114.17 pitches per outing in 2002 or even Jake Peavy's 106.18 five years after that.
Cautious is the only way to be in 2014. And sometimes even that's not enough.
The Mets had Matt Harvey on an innings limit last season. A lot of good that did. He's out until 2015 after undergoing offseason Tommy John surgery.
Stephen Strasburg's 160-inning limit in 2011 was the first of its kind. Some saw it as extreme ... until the Colorado Rockies introduced a four-man rotation using pitch counts of 75. It didn't work at all (the Rockies finished in last place in 2012) but that could be the direction baseball is headed, at least in terms of using lower pitch counts to preserve starting pitchers.
Since 2007, we've seen 259 hurlers throw 200 or more innings in a season. That's 43 fewer than we saw between 2000-2006, a 14.2 percent decrease.
Fewer innings, of course, means fewer complete games. In the last ten years, MLB has averaged 145.8 complete games per season. 2013 featured only 124, the fewest since 2007.
Adam Wainwright's league-leading five CG's in 2013 seems downright puny compared to the ten CC Sabathia shelled out in 2008 or even the nine we saw from Roy Halladay and Mark Mulder in 2003. Halladay tossed an exhausting 266 innings that season. Wainwright has never thrown more than 241 2/3.
The dynamic is changing. And it's robbing us of some of the stats and baseball landmarks we used to hold dear to our hearts.
Remember 20-game winners? They seem like a distant memory. We've seen just 16 of those in the last seven seasons including 2009 when no pitcher in either league hit that mark. Eight seasons earlier, Curt Schilling, Roger Clemens and Freddy Garcia headed a list of seven 20-game winners in MLB. Those seven averaged 230.6 innings pitched in 2001.
Who knows where this is headed. We could be a few years away from Strasburg's 160-inning limit becoming the gold standard across Major League Baseball. Seven and eight-man rotations could even be a possibility.
So forget no-hitters and perfect games. Let's just see somebody make it to 100 pitches.
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